ABB Robotics partners with METTLER TOLEDO, XtalPi on lab automation
ABB Robotics and METTLER TOLEDO have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to offer an innovative solution that seamlessly integrates ABB’s robots with LabX, METTLER TOLEDO’s laboratory instrument management software. The combined solution is set to enable efficient and high-quality automated laboratory workflows across a range of industries, making research, testing and quality control more flexible while accelerating time to market and addressing labour shortages.
“In combining METTLER TOLEDO laboratory equipment with ABB’s collaborative robots (cobots), communicated through the LabX platform, we will support operations and enable the highest traceability, productivity and data management in the industry,” said Jose Manuel Collados, Manager of ABB Service Robotics.
Laboratory automation can perform an increasingly sophisticated range of tasks faster, more consistently and with fewer errors than human workers; yet the uptake of automation in laboratories is challenged by a gap in the skills needed to handle automation technology and the complexity in setting up highly sensitive workflows. With the new collaboration, METTLER TOLEDO’s LabX software will seamlessly integrate into ABB’s OmniCore robot controllers, enabling LabX to orchestrate robotic lab workflows.
By combining the flexibility, ease of use and precision of ABB robots with the secure data capture, method control and instrument management of LabX, customers can increase lab productivity, reduce system complexity and fulfil safety and regulatory requirements. This also relieves scientists and lab technicians of mundane, repetitive tasks, providing them with additional time to pursue higher-value activities such as data analytics.
“Great innovation starts at the bench, especially when you are able to minimise process times and human error while also supporting the generation of high-quality data and information,” said Stefan Heiniger, Head of Laboratory Division for METTLER TOLEDO. “METTLER TOLEDO and ABB will provide a powerful, intuitive and standardised toolset that meets the need of laboratories of all sizes and types that will deliver new levels of automation, speed and insights, while also reducing costs.”
The collaboration is part of ABB’s ongoing strategy to bring the benefits of automation to new segments worldwide and comes just weeks after ABB Robotics announced a strategic partnership with XtalPi, an AI tech company, to produce a range of automated laboratory workstations in China. The automated laboratories will boost the productivity of R&D processes in biopharmaceuticals, chemical engineering and chemistry, and new energy materials.
“ABB Robotics and XtalPi will radically advance lab research and development through automation that works side by side with people,” Collados said. “By enabling pharma and biotech companies to develop new drugs faster and with less cost, ABB is helping to further research into disease prevention, creating healthier societies.”
In 2022, XtalPi bought over 100 of ABB’s GoFa cobots to create automated laboratory workstations at its testing facility in Shanghai, China. This year, XtalPi officially launched the automation-centric brand XtalPi Intelligent Automation with the purpose of aiding researchers through automation equipment. Together with ABB Robotics, XtalPi Intelligent Automation is using the cobots to automate the synthesis and crystallisation processes involved in developing new drugs and materials for its target industries.
The automated laboratory workstations can be customised to meet specific requirements, using different modules to complete various experiment steps. The cobots take on repetitive, manual tasks while also working non-stop, accelerating the pace of experimentation. The large volumes of high-quality data generated will provide a solid foundation for driving AI for science.
The GoFa cobots are used by XtalPi Intelligent Automation to develop preparation workstations, diluting and filtration workstations, reaction workstations, UPLC testing workstations, glovebox workstations, sample warehouses and automated guided vehicles to make lab research and development faster and more efficient. Each automated workstation can perform hundreds of different experiments, with the cobots operating in a range of challenging environments, including glove boxes — with no moisture or oxygen — while performing intricate tasks such as opening lids and placing lab equipment, liquid handling, sample addition, filtration, dilution, magnetic stirring, rapid sampling and UPLC testing, with minimal supervision required.
“Through partnering with ABB, we can increase efficiency in laboratories by implementing a human–robot integration model,” said Chenxi Zhang, Director of Automation Product Management at XtalPi. “We hope to combine XtalPi’s intelligent software system and industry experience with ABB’s expertise in robotics to bring more innovative solutions to the pharmaceutical industry, which will in turn expand the usage of automation and robots in the R&D process and help automate laboratories.”
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